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Prospect House starts on site

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Jonathan Ellis-Miller, whose original self-built 1993 ‘case study’ house at Prickwillow in the Cambridgeshire fens is featured in the 20th Century Society’s 100 key buildings of the century, is currently working on site on a larger successor at West Wratting near Newmarket.

The new house, which received full planning permission in December, is a further refinement of the minimalist California-influenced aesthetic that Ellis-Miller first adopted while working for one of the great post-war architects, the late John Winter. After nearly 25 years running his own practice since then, the new high-ceilinged single-storey house will be a home for Ellis-Miller and his family (in all three people and a dog) plus guests. It will make maximum use of offsite construction, lean, lightweight materials and low-energy technology.

With an estimated construction cost of £400,000, it is designed to sit lightly on the gentle upland landscape of its south Cambridgeshire edge-of-village location. The rectangular steel-framed single-storey house will ‘hover’ 300mm above ground level, cantilevered 3 metres from an inset grid of 14 columns set on pad foundations. It will be clad in both transparent and insulated opaque glass, appearing as a floating cube in the surrounding agricultural and woodland landscape. The floor and roof frames continue into an open bay to the west, sheltered by retractable awnings. The roof also projects eastwards to provide a car shelter.

The Ellis-Miller family will act as project managers and as with the much smaller 1993 house and its 1998 companion house built for Mary Banham, there will be an element of self-build. The family already lives on the three-quarter acre site, in an existing bungalow house on the edge of the village. The new house will be built behind it, whereupon the existing house will be demolished and its site landscaped. Unlike many designs for new rural houses, this one received no objections in the planning process and was approved under delegated powers.

The house will develop the ideas of the two 1990s Prickwillow houses, updated with the materials, demands and knowledge of the 21st century. It will capitalize on advances in eco-technologies by using air source heat pumps, PVA cells and passive solar design techniques. In plan it consists of open living/dining spaces and bedrooms on the southern and western sides with a more cellular layout on the north side including utility room, study and guest bedroom. Kitchen and bathrooms occupy the centre of the plan.

Foundations started in March 2015, with construction planned to take around a year.

01 June 2015